East Rutherford’s American Dream Mall has had its share of setbacks and hassles as it attempted to roll out the opening of its attractions and retail stores, then the COVID-19 mandatory shutdown forced the closure of anything that did manage to be open and stalled any further business or construction thus presenting even more financial challenges. In yet another setback, the American Dream Mall had to lay off about 100 employees earlier this month.
Over the past three months, vendors have filed dozens of construction liens against the property for more than $13 million total.
Liens are filed when contractors or subcontractors have not yet been paid for completed work.
“Yet again, the American Dream/Xanadu Mall has not paid contractors. This has been going on with every owner since the beginning,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
Tittle further states that malls have been going out of style for years, that retail is going to change dramatically because of COVID, and there is no guarantee that American Dream will actually open or pay back the funding it received.
“This has been the wrong project in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Tittle said. “For 20 years, this mall has seen one calamity after another. This has been a massive waste of money backed by New Jersey taxpayer funds.”
The American Dream mega-mall is the largest public subsidized development project in state history. The project received $350 million in direct state subsidies from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority plus another $800 million for financing, including $100 million for road improvements, bringing it up to $1.5 billion project.
A spokesperson for American Dream said the company was aware of the liens and that it has been reaching out to all project-related vendors who have been affected.
The spokesperson further sited that as COVID-19 took hold in the state, under the executive order of Gov. Phil Murphy, all construction and related work at American Dream was stopped on March 20.
Construction resumed at American Dream on June 1 with COVID-19 protocols in place, following Murphy’s May 13 order.
“We are working with our tenants and vendors to ensure each of these payment items are addressed as the state continues to reopen, restart, and resume business. We continue to work together with the state on American Dream’s reopening and look forward to greeting our guests very soon,” the spokesperson said.